After dropping her daughter at the daycare, Sarah headed to her 8 AM meeting at the corporate’s headquarters. Her mind was scattered and pulled into different directions: the Qur’an recitation playing in her car with its beautiful rhythms; the missing sound of the Barista at Starbucks informing her that her favorite latte is ready; the emails she must reply to before the meeting; the invitation list for her family’s Iftar dinner tomorrow; the Islamic lecture on YouTube she started listening to before she fell asleep…
Sarah is like many young Muslim professionals out there who face this dilemma, this seeming battle between the different hats that they wear.
For some reason, Ramadan represents to them the “mother of all battles”, the Armageddon (maybe I should coin the word: Ramadanegeddon) between the spiritual wants and the materialistic obligations. While some people call this: “work-life balance”, I prefer to call it“work-life-faith” integration.
Back to Sarah, she happened to be listening to verses from Surat Al-Hashr while pulling into the company’s parking structure. Little did she know, probably due to some barriers that may exist today between our generation and the Qur’an, that the verses she was mindlessly listening to [59:18-24] actually carried what she needed to hear to solve her problems and put matters in perspective.
Those verses provide a formula, a recipe, or a blueprint for becoming a truly productive and holistic human being. They lay out foundations of personal development from an Islamic point of view, with specific actionable items.
This is what we want to discuss in this article.
But before we get to that, before you continue reading the words of a creation like myself, I invite you to listen to the words of the Creator, reflect on those verses, and then resume with this article…
Are you ready now? Then let’s explore some hidden gems in those verses, insha’Allah (God willing).
Mindfulness of The Creator & the final destination puts life in perspective
The verses from the aforementioned Surah started by reminding the listeners to be mindful of The Creator and that He is watching one’s every move. He is there to guide and help. One is not aimlessly or purposelessly walking this earth alone. This mindfulness of the Creator is a great motivator to be humble, to seize every opportunity to do good, and to try and overcome conflicts or wrongdoings.
“O you who have believed, fear Allah. And let every soul look to what it has put forth for tomorrow – and fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” [Qur’an: Chapter 59, Verse 18]
While believing in God and acknowledging His existence is the foundation of faith, Islam urges us to go beyond that. It urges us to have a deep, mindful connection with Him, and to focus on our intentions and to dedicate everything that we do for Him. This goes beyond rituals to involve every aspect of our life, including our corporate work and the way we carry ourselves professionally.
Taqwa (or mindfulness of God) is a self-development factor. It requires one to be sincere and truthful and to make decisions accordingly.
When one is mindful, sincere and remembers the bigger picture of life and the afterlife, it becomes easier to make the right decisions at work and in life in general.
Also, Islam teaches us to treat the afterlife as though it is happening tomorrow, not sometime in the far future. This is a reality check. Treating every day as though it is your last truly puts life in perspective. You’d think about what legacy you want to leave behind; if this was your last email, your last meeting, your last report, the last time you hug a family member, the last time you pray… How would you do it differently?
From a productivity and life-planning standpoint, this ensures that we are managing our time properly for the right reasons, not just focusing on being effective with no meaning or greater goal.
Mindfulness of the hereafter becomes the fuel that burns inside your engine to better manage your time, focus and performance.
In short, being mindful of the final destination puts matters in perspective now and helps us make the most suitable moves every step of the way.
Knowing your Creator helps you better know yourself
Understanding yourself becomes easier when you understand who created you and why.
Probably, this is what Sarah -and many other professionals are missing-: they are confused about the separate roles and hats they wear throughout the week. The moment she swipes her badge to step into the building, it is as though she feels she must put her spiritual identity on hold.
Many sincere professionals who are faithful to their Islamic identity feel that they are obliged to leave that identity outside the workforce. By the time they step into their cube and log into their PC, they become another “head-count” on the project. By the time they start answering their emails and calling into their online meetings, they put their spirituality on the back burner, despite the huge feeling of guilt of not “worshipping Allah enough” during the precious moments of Ramadan.
In ayah 19, Allah cautions us from forgetting Him because this will result in forgetting who we really are.
“And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. Those are the defiantly disobedient.” [Qur’an: Chapter 59, Verse 19]
The ayah is not talking about forgetting our materialistic identity (name, address…etc) but our spiritual eternal purpose: that we are servants of God who are entrusted to take care of His earth. When our life becomes centered around our basic survival goals only (eat, sleep, procreate, fulfill urges, consume…etc) this is when we feel a major spiritual void.
So, when one is constantly conscious of his/her spiritual needs and is connecting with the Source of this spirit throughout the day, this helps one feel more at ease and accomplished. Connecting spiritually with Allah is not just about the prayer moments, but the way we carry ourselves throughout the day, how we treat other, how we treat our families, how we put up with harm and favors peace over war in workplace for example, how we are patient with our children… all of these are acts of worship that are rewarded and make you a better person.
Faith is not just about locking oneself in for worship.
It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah said:“The believer who mixes with people and bears their harm with patience will have a greater reward than the believer who does not mix with people and does not put up with their harm.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
So, when everything is connected to Him, this is when one will experience balance and fulfillment.
Understanding the bigger picture facilitates taking the right decisions now
The verses in the Surah then paints a bigger picture that one needs to understand and works towards.
“Not equal are the companions of the Fire and the companions of Paradise. The companions of Paradise – they are the attainers [of success].” [Qur’an, Chapter 59, Verse 20]
It is easy to lose sight of the bigger goals and aspirations when drowning in daily activities. Therefore the Qur’an invites us to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
This way, the mother who is changing the diapers for her baby boy and putting him to sleep should reflect on how this future leader will cleanse the world from all the greed and corruption. The project manager who is preparing a project health chart to his management should keep an eye on how this project will make our world greener, smarter, and safer. And on top of all that, all professionals and parents should realize that what they are doing at the moment will show up on their portfolio of deeds that will be presented before Allah one day. This is when we will realize that dwelling in paradise eternally is a goal that is worth the momentary struggle we may be experiencing.
The Qur’an breaks one’s ego and breaks down barriers
The work-life-faith integration mindset requires feeding our souls with the Qur’an constantly, and this is especially more effective in Ramadan as we reduce our consumption of food. It is starving our bodies to feed our souls, this is a way to eliminate distractions, increase humility and heightens the sense of consciousness and reflection.
“If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah . And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought.” [Qur’an: Chapter 59, Verse 21]
The interesting part of this verse is how the Divine speech of Allah is not always about commanding us to do something, but it gives us examples so that we can reflect our own lives and derive beneficial action points to become better.
If we consider Sarah’s example and her challenges as a working mother during Ramadan, the verses are providing comfort that:
- This Qur’an, and the Words and Power of Allah , can humble mountains so it can break barriers and build bridges between the different elements of one’s life.
- This Qur’an can inspire families, communities, and the entire world to live the best version of themselves.
- This Qur’an can cause real change in people’s behavior and habits, and bring out the hidden talents in our communities to the entire world.
The Surah then ends in a beautiful way and provides a powerful and crucial element for human development.
Constantly reviving one’s spirit through connecting with The Names of Allah
We know that Allah has introduced Himself to His creations through His Beautiful Names and Attributes. He taught us many of His Names and encouraged us to worship Him through them.
“And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them…” [Qur’an: Chapter 7, Verse 180]
Most ayahs in the Qur’an mention 2-3 names of Allah at a time, but in this Surah, the ending verses carried up to 17 Names of Allah !
“He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior. Exalted is Allah above whatever they associate with Him.He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor, the Fashioner; to Him belong the best names. Whatever is in the heavens and earth is exalting Him. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise..” [Qur’an: Chapter 59, Verse 22-24]
So, for those who ask: how can we revive our faith and boost spiritual productivity? It is first and foremost through getting to know Allah on a deep level, and connecting with Him while we are writing that email, or presenting that project status report or doing anything else throughout the day.
The verses encourage us to reflect on the Names of Allah , and the various Names may be used by different people at different moments in their lives, depending on their particular needs and situations, for example:
- The accountant who just graduated from college and who is looking for the first employment should constantly call on to Allah’s Name, Ar-Razzaq, Al-Karim (The One who provides, the unimaginably Generous Master).
- The person who is trying to resist peer pressure, or quit bad habits, and get out of the cycle of sin-guilt-sin-guilt should connect with the Name of Allah At-Tawwab, Al-Ghafour, Al ‘Afoww (The One who accepts repentance, the One who Forgives and pardons His servants constantly).
- The parent who is concerned about the future of his/her daughter, about their faith, identity, and manners, should connect with Allah’s Name Al-Hadi, (The One who guides and shows His servants the way and helps them stay on it).
- The community member who is reflecting on the situation of our Ummah should reflect on the name of Allah Al-Aziz, Al-Qaweyy, (The Mighty and Incomparably eternally Strong) and how this can change our condition whenever He wills.
So, my personal advice to Sarah and all young professionals who are looking to reignite that love in their hearts for the Qur’an and Allah , focus on 2-3 Names of Allah and include them in your daily dua. Use every opportunity, every ayah that you read and every Islamic reminder that you watch to connect with God’s Names and Attributes that relate and speak to your situation.
By the Will and Help of Allah , the One who guides, Al-Hadi, the ultimately wise, Al-Hakeem, the walls between your spiritual, social, and professional self will be removed. You will be a full-time worshipper of your Master, and you will fulfill every role in your life with your heart and mind constantly reassured, because “Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” [Qur’an, Chapter 13, Verse 28]
In the comments section, I appreciate if you can share your input and reflections on the top 3 Names of Allah that relate to your particular situation and life challenges. Tell us, how does connecting with the Names of Allah boost your productivity?